Archive for December, 2008

rats 5.rat.003 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

December 26, 2008

Mother rats literally groom their daughters to be attentive or neglectful mothers themselves, concludes a team of neuroscientists at McGill University in Montreal.

Adult females who were frequently licked and groomed by their mothers behave similarly toward pups in their care. They also show heightened sensitivity to the hormone estrogen in brain regions devoted to maternal behavior, say Michael J. Meaney and his colleagues. This physiological effect of grooming suggests that a change in the female pup’s brain governs the animal’s own mothering styles, the team concludes in the Oct. 23 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. http://louissheehan.bravejournal.com

In contrast, Meaney’s group finds that adult females who were rarely licked and groomed by their mothers mirror that minimalist maternal style and exhibit relatively little estrogen sensitivity in mothering-related brain regions.

In earlier work, the scientists noted that maternal styles shape the young rats’ behavior regardless of genetics. For instance, if reared by conscientious adoptive mothers, female rats born to unresponsive mothers withstand stress and care for newborns just as effectively as do female rats born to dutiful mothers.

In its new study, Meaney’s group first found that virgin females who had been reared by attentive mothers more often licked and groomed pups placed in their presence than did virgin females who had been reared by tongues-off mothers.

Along with estrogen, the brain hormone oxytocin plays a key role in these maternal responses. Reports have linked oxytocin to sexual and social behavior in mammals.

Six days after giving birth, females reared by attentive mothers displayed greater numbers of oxytocin receptors in several brain areas involved in maternal behavior than did females reared by unresponsive mothers. Other research indicates that surges in estrogen levels lead to increased numbers of oxytocin receptors in these parts of the brain. http://louissheehan.bravejournal.com

There’s more evidence for the oxytocin-mothering link. When given a drug that blocks oxytocin receptors, new mothers licked and groomed their pups at consistently low rates, regardless of their own rearing histories, the scientists say. Yet only those females that were reared by attentive mothers showed a marked increase in oxytocin-receptor activity when treated with estrogen. Such findings show how nature and nurture intertwine during development, say the researchers.

“These experiments elegantly show that, in rats, mothers’ behavior powerfully influences their daughters’ genetic potential for maternal behavior,” comments Bruce S. McEwen of Rockefeller University in New York City. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

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sunny 5.sun.100102 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

December 13, 2008

Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire .  Martha (Sunny) von Bülow, the American heiress who was first married to an Austrian playboy prince and then to a Danish-born man-about-society who was twice tried on charges of attempting to murder her, died Saturday at a nursing home in Manhattan. Mrs. von Bülow, who was 76, had been in a coma for nearly 28 years.

Maureen Connelly, a spokeswoman for the family, confirmed the death. Mrs. von Bülow’s three children said in a statement that they “were blessed to have an extraordinary loving and caring mother.” The cause, as listed in the death certificate, was cardiopulmonary arrest, Ms. Connelly said. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

Mrs. von Bülow’s death came 27 years, 11 months and 15 days after she was found unconscious on the floor of her bathroom in her mansion in Newport, R.I., on Dec. 21, 1980.

In her long, silent years at the Milstein Building at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital, and then at a nursing home on the Upper East Side, doctors said Mrs. von Bülow never showed any signs of brain activity; she was fed through a tube in her stomach. Yet there were always fresh flowers in her room, and photographs of her children and grandchildren sat on a bedside table. She was attended by private nurses, and her room, for some time, was guarded by private security personnel.

She is survived by her daughters, Annie-Laurie von Auersperg Kneissl Isham and Cosima Pavoncelli; her son, Alexander von Auersperg; and nine grandchildren.

Her second husband, Claus von Bülow, was convicted and later acquitted of twice trying to kill her with injections of insulin so as to aggravate her hypoglycemia, a low blood sugar condition.

His trials were among the most sensational of the 1980s. News media from around the world were drawn to the drama of the beautiful heiress who lay in a twilight zone, the debonair husband accused of attempted murder and two royal children pitted against their younger half sister, with the glittering social milieus of Newport and New York providing the backdrop.

Hollywood, too, could not resist. The trials became the subject of the 1990 movie “Reversal of Fortune” with Glenn Close as Mrs. von Bülow and Jeremy Irons as Mr. von Bülow.

The prosecutions were the result of an investigation initiated by Alexander von Auersperg and his sister Annie-Laurie von Auersperg Kneissl, known as Ala, the children from Mrs. von Bülow’s marriage to Prince Alfred von Auersperg. The accusations pitted the von Auerspergs against their stepfather and their half sister, Cosima von Bülow, and divided the loyalty of friends in Newport and New York.

In his first trial, in Newport in 1982, Mr. von Bülow was found guilty of twice trying to kill his wife and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He appealed and posted a $1 million bond believed to have been put up by his friend J. Paul Getty Jr., the oil tycoon.

The appeal was guided by Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, and the conviction was overturned on the grounds that certain information had not been made available to the defense and that there had been no search warrant when pills were sent for testing.

Mr. von Bülow was acquitted in 1985 after a second trial in Providence, R.I., where his chief defense counsel was Thomas P. Puccio. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

A $56 million civil suit filed against Mr. von Bülow by his stepchildren was settled in 1987 with the stipulation that Mr. von Bülow agree to a divorce and not discuss the case publicly. The couple were divorced in 1988. Mr. von Bülow lives in London.

A principal prosecution witness at the trials, Maria Schrallhammer, Mrs. von Bülow’s longtime maid, testified that shortly before Christmas 1979, she became worried when Mr. von Bülow refused to call a doctor as his wife, moaning behind a locked door, sank into a coma. Mr. von Bülow said that he thought his wife was sleeping.

Mrs. von Bülow eventually recovered at Newport Hospital, where tests indicated a high level of insulin. A few months later, the maid said, she found in Mr. von Bülow’s closet a small black bag containing syringes, yellow paste and white powder. She said she had passed these on to Ala von Auersperg, who had the family physician analyze the contents. They were determined to be Seconal and a paste form of Valium. Ms. Schrallhammer said that she kept an eye on the bag and that some months later found insulin in it.

On Dec. 21, 1980, Mrs. von Bülow was again found unconscious and taken to Newport Hospital. Shortly afterward, an investigator working on behalf of the two older children searched the house and found a black bag said to contain three hypodermic needles, one with traces of a sedative and insulin.

Mrs. von Bülow, who had inherited $75 million, was depicted by the defense as a reticent woman who drowned her insecurities in alcohol and was familiar with drugs. The von Auersperg children, backed by Ms. Schrallhammer, claimed that Mrs. von Bülow needed as little as two drinks to appear that she had had too much.

The prosecution put Alexandra Isles, a socialite and former actress who had been Mr. von Bülow’s mistress, on the stand to admit that she had given Mr. von Bülow an ultimatum about dissolving his marriage. It was noted, too, that a divorce would have voided the $14 million that Mr. von Bülow would have inherited under his wife’s will and left him with an annual income of $120,000 from a trust.

Mr. von Bülow acknowledged that he and his wife had discussed divorce, but he denied that the issue was another woman. He initiated the talks, he said, because he wished to return to work and his wife did not agree. He had been working intermittingly as a broker.

Mrs. von Bülow, the former Martha Sharp Crawford, was born in Manassas, Va., on Sept. 1, 1932, the only child of Annie-Laurie and George W. Crawford, a former chairman of Columbia Gas and Electric Company of Pittsburgh, who died in 1935. Mrs. Crawford, the daughter of Robert Warmack, founder of the International Shoe Company, was remarried in 1957 to Russell Aitken, a sculptor. She died in 1984, leaving an estate estimated at $100 million.

Her daughter was originally nicknamed Choo-Choo because she was born in her father’s railway car, and later called Sunny because of her disposition. She attended the Chapin School in Manhattan and St. Timothy’s School in Maryland, and she had an elaborate debut in 1949. She was 24 when she married Prince Alfred von Auersperg, a 20-year-old tennis pro at the exclusive Schloss Mittersell in Austria.

The couple settled in Munich and later in Kitzbühel, Austria. Ala von Auersperg was born in 1958 and Alexander the following year. The marriage ended in divorce in 1965. The princess had few interests in common with her husband, did not share his ardor for big-game hunting in Africa and disliked his flirting. She also missed the United States. The prince received $1 million and two houses in a settlement.

(In a twist of fate, Prince von Auersperg went into an irreversible coma in 1983 after an automobile accident in Austria. He died in 1992.) http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

The year after her divorce, the princess married Claus von Bülow, whom she had met years earlier in London. He was originally neither a von nor a Bülow. His mother was divorced from his father, Svend Borberg, a playwright and drama critic who was convicted of collaborating with the Nazis by a Danish court after the war. He was sentenced to four years in prison, released after 18 months and died shortly after. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

Claus grew up with his mother and maternal grandfather, Frits Bülow, a former minister of justice in Denmark and a successful businessman. Claus adopted the Bülow name and added “von” as a young adult. At the time of his marriage, Mr. von Bülow was a senior aide to Mr. Getty.

The couple settled in an imposing Fifth Avenue apartment facing Central Park. A short time later, following the lead of her mother, Mrs. von Bülow acquired a Newport estate, Clarendon Court, a 23-room Georgian mansion on 10 acres overlooking the sea. Mrs. von Bülow had the huge lawn lowered 17 feet to improve the view of the ocean.

The house had been the setting for the 1956 musical “High Society,” starring Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. The property was sold in 1988 for $4.2 million; the same year, an auction of von Bülow furniture, paintings, porcelains and silver brought more than $11.5 million.

A daughter, Cosima, was born in 1967, and the three siblings apparently got along well until their mother’s comas aroused the suspicions of the von Auersperg children. Miss von Bülow supported her father during his trials and as a result was cut out of her maternal grandmother’s will. When Mrs. Aitken died in 1984, Miss von Bülow filed suit claiming that family members had turned her grandmother against her. In a 1987 settlement, Mr. von Bülow renounced all his claims to his wife’s fortune in return for his daughter’s receiving a share of Mrs. Aitken’s estate, equal to those of her half sister and half brother.

Ms. Connelly, the family spokeswoman, said the three siblings, after a long period of estrangement, are “reconciling and moving forward together as a family, because that is what their mother would have wanted.”

After the trials, the von Auerspergs founded the Sunny von Bülow National Victim Advocacy Center, with headquarters in Fort Worth, Tex., and the Sunny von Bülow Coma and Head Trauma Research Foundation in New York. The author Dominick Dunne wrote about the case and had known Mrs. von Bulow since she was a debutante. He said on Saturday that she had been portrayed unfairly in the film as an emotionally frail alcoholic. He said she was a “beautiful and shy” woman who “really did not like the social life, although she was totally associated with the social life.” Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

juviniles Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

December 12, 2008

Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

Sarah Cooksey, 30, and her husband, Tom, are firefighters, and Sarah is an emergency medical technician as well. “I run into burning buildings and help people in the deepest crises,” she said.

So she felt bewildered and desperate when deteriorating relations with their adopted daughter, Amanda, culminated in a vicious physical fight, with the 17-year-old girl stomping out of the house. The police, who picked up Amanda, suggested an emergency shelter for a two-week cooling off period, a place where troubled teenagers receive anger-management lessons, social skills classes and counseling for themselves and their parents — and later bedtimes if they follow the rules.http://www.blog.ca/user/Beforethebigbang

Amanda’s voluntary stint in that group home in February was the start of family healing, both she and her parents said recently.

The shelter in Tallahassee, one of 28 around the state, is part of a system of aid for adolescents that, in its breadth and approach, represents a major shift in thinking around the country: earlier intervention when families are boiling over, rather than waiting until the children end up in costly, soul-crushing detention or foster care.

The system of respite and treatment aims to keep families intact and divert “ungovernable” children from a criminal path. It is run by the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, a nonprofit umbrella group, and is financed by the State Department of Juvenile Justice. An evaluation in 2001 by Florida Tax Watch, a private research group, found that the network was probably saving the state $15 million or more a year by keeping vulnerable children out of detention.

The network has been praised as a model for other states and will be studied by Nebraska officials looking to fill the gaps in family service that were revealed there this fall, when dozens of desperate parents handed unruly preteenagers and teenagers to state custody, forcing a change in the state’s safe-haven law.

Overseeing dozens of private agencies throughout Florida, the network serves a group that too often falls between the cracks: children who are deeply troubled, but not abused, neglected or criminal. Some 7,000 children pass through the shelters on a voluntary basis each year — uncontrollable children, runaways and chronic truants, usually referred by schools, the police or parents. Another 11,000 children and families, of some 30,000 who call in for help or advice, receive free or low-cost counseling and referrals without shelter stays.

By law, the shelters cannot serve children who are facing juvenile charges or families under investigation by the child-welfare office. http://louissheehan.bravejournal.com
“The Nebraska experience has exposed the needs of youths who engage in noncriminal misbehavior,” said Jessica R. Kendall, assistant staff director of the American Bar Association’s center on children and the law, who praised the Florida approach.

Sara Mogulescu, director of the center on youth studies at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York, a nonprofit research and policy group, said earlier intervention was “what a lot of places are moving toward, and Florida is at the forefront.”

These experts described other promising efforts, on a less sweeping, statewide scale, in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois and New York. http://louis9j9sheehan.blog.com

Florida’s juvenile justice department keeps data on network clients for only six months after they leave the program; these show that about 90 percent of children passing through it did not enter juvenile custody during that period.

Yet the youth network, like other social programs, is prey to Florida’s budget woes. With origins in runaway shelters established in the 1970s and ’80s, the current broader program was created in 1997. The number of shelters and children helped has steadily grown, but this year, state grants have fallen to $28.5 million, from $32 million last year, said Dee Richter, director of the network. This means, Ms. Richter said, that 2,500 fewer children will receive nonresidential aid in the year ahead, and the state’s fiscal crisis does not bode well for the future.

Ira Burnim, legal director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington, said the Florida program was helpful, but Mr. Burnim was skeptical about the long-term benefits for children with severe behavioral problems. Florida, like other states, has a shortage of subsidized psychiatric services for adolescents, he said, especially the costly long-term care needed by those with mental illness.

Mr. Burnim added that weekly meetings with a therapist were seldom enough to turn around children with the most challenging problems, but that “wraparound” services — in which counselors spend enormous time with children and their families teaching them new ways to interact, and teachers, coaches and others in the child’s life all work together — had proved most effective in studies. The approach is being used on a limited scale in several states, he said.

Mental health care remains one of the toughest challenges for the Florida Network, Ms. Richter acknowledged, with an initial psychiatric assessment often costing $400. The network’s focus, however, remains crisis intervention, she said, and many are helped with less expensive counseling.

For some families, the 14-day cooling off period is enough; for others, the crisis is a sign of deeper problems — a parent’s alcoholism, a child’s mental issues — that require more attention.

”We’re putting on a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding while we assess their needs,” said Shannon Martin, program director at Capital City Youth Services in Tallahassee, the shelter Amanda stayed in last winter.

That shelter has 18 beds, with children sharing dorm-like rooms, a recreation room with television and a small outside area for sports. Children are bused to their same schools to minimize disruption. http://louis9j9sheehan.blog.com

Several children at the shelter on a recent day said it offered a welcome spell of peace and consistency. “They have boundaries,” said a 15-year-old girl who has fought with a foster mother she said was alcoholic. “A kid needs that, and I don’t have any at home.”

She said she was glad that she was required to do homework and that the whole day was carefully structured. After school, the children have an hour of physical activity, do their homework and then have group counseling or social skills classes. After dinner, they have chores. Each child has individual therapy at least once a week, and two young social workers stay constantly with the children, trying to provide models of appropriate behavior.

A 14-year-old boy who was finishing a two-week stay said: “I’m learning to control my aggression and communicate better. There’s always going to be problems at home, but when things get extreme, you’ve got to calm down.”

In his case, he attended anger-management sessions and developed methods for coping with aggressive feelings, like shooting baskets or practicing deep-breathing techniques.

“I’m feeling better about talking with people about stuff,” he said.

The Cookseys’ relationship with Amanda had deteriorated in the two years since they had adopted her at 15. (Her birth mother, already struggling, sustained a brain injury and could not provide adequate care.) The girl was defiant, lying and even dabbling in witchcraft, Ms. Cooksey said. After their fight in February, Amanda ran back to her biological mother’s house. The policeman who picked her up said he could take her home to the Cookseys or to the Capital City shelter.

“I figured I needed some time to cool off,” Amanda, now 18, said. “My anger consumed me, and for the first week, I didn’t want to go home. But then I had time to clear my head, and I decided to give it a second chance.”

Of that awful day they fought, Ms. Cooksey said: “I cried and said what is happening to me? Here I am helping all these other people, and I can’t help myself.”

The anger and confusion that had engulfed Amanda seemed distant during a recent visit to the Cookseys’ suburban home, where she proudly took out a scrapbook she had made with pictures of her dual family trees. Ms. Cooksey, for her part, said that both of them had learned to take a time out when anger was building, to leave the room or take a walk.

Amanda, sitting close to Ms. Cooksey, said that through therapy she had begun to understand her feelings and to communicate better — expressing appreciation, for example, though she still fights the impulse to lie when convenient.

“I know it’s going to take time,” she said, “but I’m trying with all my heart to make a different life.”Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

florence 6.flo.0002 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

December 12, 2008

Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire .  ‘Florence Nightingale,” concludes an illustrated children’s biography from 1959, “will always be famous among the great women not only of England, but of the world. The efficient hospitals and devoted nurses of to-day owe an immortal debt to her, and through them the lives of all of us have been affected by the work of this great and gracious lady.”

[Bookshelf]

From such acorns mighty oaks do grow. As a child, Mark Bostridge was given that 50-page biography by his mother. Now, many years and 500 pages later, Mr. Bostridge has produced “Florence Nightingale: The Making of an Icon,” a dense and compelling biography of a woman who is rightly venerated but often too simplistically understood. http://louis-j-sheehan-esquire.blog.friendster.com

The iconic version of Nightingale appeared within her lifetime and became, in a way, institutionalized. She was the first nonroyal woman to appear on English currency. How did the gently born and well-bred Florence become the Lady with the Lamp, walking hospital corridors in the midst of war, inspiring wounded soldiers to turn and kiss her shadow as she passed?

Florence Nightingale
By Mark Bostridge
(Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 647 pages, $35)

According to the classic inspirational narrative, she nursed her dolls as a girl and bandaged the broken leg of Cap, the shepherd’s collie. She persuaded her close-knit family that she could become a new kind of nurse, not the usual drunken slattern. During the Crimean War (1854-56) she fought for common soldiers and triumphed over pig-headed doctors and inept officials. She was an emblem of feminine care and British grit.

This picture of Florence Nightingale, according to Mr. Bostridge, is not so much false as one-dimensional. In his telling, she is no longer a behaloed “gracious lady” but a complicated woman of her time, humorous and wry, often unlikable, always formidable. Her accomplishments were real enough, but Mr. Bostridge assesses them more judiciously than early hagiographers or later scoffers like Lytton Strachey, who included Florence Nightingale in “Eminent Victorians” (1918), his debunking group portrait of an era.

In Mr. Bostridge’s account, Florence struggles internally with her sense of duty and desire for fame and outwardly against the propriety of her loving family and its world of marriage and private charity. Her incisive intelligence, particularly in statistics, was evident early on. She was lucky in her father, who insisted on giving her the best education. And yet, as Mr. Bostridge puts it, “he seems not to have foreseen the possible consequences of pursuing such an advanced program.”

As a young woman she joked about attending scientific lectures and the milliner’s: “Our brain pans are so much enlarged that we’ve been obliged to have new bonnets.” On a grand tour of Egypt (she traveled on the same boat as the sexual tourist Gustave Flaubert!), she had a religious and vocational epiphany: “God called me in the morning & asked me ‘Would I do good for Him . . . without the reputation?’ ” Her religion was intense but unorthodox. As Mr. Bostridge notes: “She saw prayer essentially as a misdirection of human energy that would be more fruitfully employed in going out into the world seeking to effect change.”

But as she approached her 30s, with no prospect of satisfying her own ambitions or her family’s hopes for her, she became increasingly frustrated: “Oh if one has but a toothache, what remedies are invented! What carriages, horses, ponies, journeys, doctors, chaperones, are urged upon one; but if it is something the matter with the mind . . . it is neither believed nor understood.” She was courted by several influential men, including the poet and politician Richard Monckton Milnes and the scholar Benjamin Jowett, before she seemed to recognize that marriage was not part of her picture of herself. As Mr. Bostridge recounts, she continued to enjoy the admiration of such men, often married — for example, Secretary of War Sidney Herbert and the poet Arthur Hugh Clough — not always to the pleasure of their wives. http://www.soulcast.com/Louis3J3Sheehan/

Through a mix of intractability and subterfuge she won her way to nursing studies in France and Germany. Back in London, she became the first superintendent of the Establishment for Gentlewomen during Illness. Then, in 1854, the Crimean War broke out (pitting Britain and France against Russia), and Sidney Herbert suggested that she mobilize Englishwomen as nurses. The aimless variety of her life clicked into place. Even her sister, Parthenope, who had been the greatest foe in the family to Florence’s interests outside it, converted to the cause and gave a push to the emerging Nightingale narrative: “All things have . . . fitted her for this. . . . None of her previous life has been wasted.” http://www.soulcast.com/Louis3J3Sheehan

In the Crimea, Mr. Bostridge reminds us, journalists and artist-engravers were at a war front for the first time and managed to mobilize public opinion “as never before.” Thus Florence Nightingale, the gentlewoman showing care for the common soldier, began to be seen as the embodiment of the nation’s conscience. “I wish we had her at the war office,” Queen Victoria said. The queen’s subjects went further: They put pictures and statuettes of Florence in their homes and named their daughters after her. Until then, “Florence,” for the British, was only the name of an Italian city.

She cannily used her secular apotheosis to expand her work. Her great talent turned out to be not nursing but impelling people to form and reform institutions. In all her efforts — concerning sanitation, nursing methods, theories of disease or hospital architecture — she marshaled both facts and righteous indignation. The deaths arising from unsanitary conditions in the army, she said, were equivalent to taking “1,100 men per annum out upon Salisbury Plain and shoot[ing] them.” In short, she was far from being merely gentle and gracious, as myth would have it; she could be acerbic and uncompromising when it came to pushing her projects forward. And why not? Salvation — both physical and spiritual health — was worth fighting for.

So that children’s biography had it fundamentally right: We do owe Florence Nightingale an “immortal debt.” But Mr. Bostridge transforms the simple outline of her life into a full and masterly portrait.  Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

non-stick 99.non.10035t Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

December 7, 2008

Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire.  Complying with a request from the Environmental Protection Agency, the companies that make perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have agreed to work toward ending production of the chemical worldwide by 2015. The agency requested the voluntary phaseout in late January, days before the majority of the scientists on one of its advisory boards deemed PFOA a “likely carcinogen.” http://louisjjjsheehan.blogspot.com

All eight manufacturers have also agreed to cut PFOA emissions and use in commercial products by 95 percent within 5 years, the EPA announced on March 2. http://louisjjjsheehan.blogspot.com

PFOA is used to make the nonstick coatings on microwave popcorn bags, cookware, fabrics, and other goods. The chemical, which contaminates water, air, and wildlife, is ubiquitous in people’s blood (SN: 11/26/05, p. 341: Available to subscribers at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20051126/fob5.asp), but scientists aren’t sure how it gets into the bloodstream.

DuPont of Wilmington, Del., the sole U.S.–based manufacturer and the first to sign on to the phaseout program, agreed last December to pay a fine of $16.5 million to settle charges (SN: 7/31/04, p. 78: Available to subscribers at

http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040731/note17.asp) that it withheld data on releases of PFOA and their effects on people.  Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

lead 8.lea.0039 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

December 6, 2008

Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire .  When Arlene L. Weiss and her colleagues found that urban house dust tends to contain more lead the closer it is to a frequently opened window, they reasoned that most of the heavy metal arrives from outside. Their new survey now confirms that street grit is the probable source of lead in urban homes and that flaking paint from overpasses and bridges is a major contributor. http://louisjjjsheehan.blogspot.com

The researchers sampled soil and street sweepings from 255 sites throughout New York City’s five boroughs. The highest lead contamination occurred directly beneath elevated train trestles, where concentrations of the metal routinely reached many thousands of parts per million (ppm). The federal limit for lead in U.S. soil is 400 ppm.

Samples of outdoor dust were much less tainted just two to three blocks away from bridges and trestles, with lead loads in the range of 200 to 500 ppm, notes Weiss, a consulting toxicologist with Environmental Medicine in Westwood, N.J. Still, her team found, even among outdoor soil samples taken where there was no apparent structural source of lead, 20 percent exceeded the federal limit. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire .

The federal limit for lead in house dust is 40 micrograms per square foot of swabbed area. Weiss and her colleagues report in the February Environmental Research that this amount can be exceeded on surfaces near windows in New York City after only 3 weeks of dust accumulation. Frequent cleaning of interior surfaces is necessary, they argue, to limit children’s indoor exposure to the outdoor pollutant.  Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

metabolit 5.met.911003 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

December 5, 2008

To beef up animals quickly, most U.S. cattle ranchers treat their livestock with growth-promoting hormones. Among the more widely used drugs is trenbolone acetate (SN: 1/5/02, p. 10: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20020105/bob13.asp), a synthetic anabolic steroid. In April, Environmental Protection Agency scientists reported finding trace concentrations of two breakdown products of this drug in wastes released into a stream by an Ohio cattle feedlot. http://louis7j7sheehan7esquire.blogspot.com

Now, the scientists show that female fish develop masculine traits when exposed to these testosterone-like breakdown products at the same concentrations seen in those feedlot wastes. http://louis8j8sheehan8esquire.blogspot.com

A team led by Gerald T. Ankley of the EPA laboratory in Duluth, Minn., scouted for trenbolone’s breakdown products—17-alpha and 17-beta trenbolone—in feedlot wastes. Both occurred at a few parts per trillion (ppt), the group reported in an April supplement to Environmental Health Perspectives.

The alpha metabolite was 5 to 10 times as abundant as the beta metabolite, but preliminary test-tube data had suggested that the alpha form was only one-tenth as potent as the beta.

To the team’s surprise, the alpha and beta metabolites proved equally potent in their effects on female fathead minnows. In water with 11 ppt of either metabolite, a concentration comparable to that in the Ohio wastewater, egg production fell to half of normal, the Duluth team reports in the May 1 Environmental Science & Technology. A concentration of about 110 ppt shut down egg production and produced bumps on the females’ heads, a trait normally seen only in males. http://louis9j9sheehan9esquire.blogspot.com

Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire